Fossil Fools

WUWT has a piece on the “ever-shrinking lawsuits against Exxon” by Charles the Moderator. And, right on cue, the George Mason University Centre for Climate Change Communication has brought out a new report: America Misled: How the Fossil Fuel Industry Deliberately Misled Americans about Climate Change,” by Cook, Supran, Lewandowsky, Oreskes and Maibach.

The article by experts studying climate denial and the history of fossil fuel interests, based on thousands of pages of documented evidence” is a 15 page pdf with about two pages of text and lots of diagrams, mostly lifted from previous documents from the Cook/Lew/Oreskes kitchen.

Its key points are:

1. Internal corporate documents show that the fossil fuel industry has known about the reality of human-caused climate change for decades. Its response was to actively orchestrate and fund denial and disinformation so as to stifle action and protect its status quo business operations.

2. As the scientific consensus on climate change emerged and strengthened, the industry and its political allies attacked the consensus and exaggerated the uncertainties.

3. The fossil fuel industry offered no consistent alternative explanation for why the climate was changing—the goal was merely to undermine support for action.

4. The strategy, tactics, infrastructure, and rhetorical arguments and techniques used by fossil fuel interests to challenge the scientific evidence of climate change—including cherry picking, fake experts, and conspiracy theories—come straight out of the tobacco industry’s playbook for delaying tobacco control.

The only part of these claims supported by any evidence is the first sentence of point 1, which is evidently true. The article reproduces ExxonMobil’s internal memos and their paid “advertorial” in the New York Times, underlined and with commentary pencilled in by the authors. These handwritten comments provide the only thing that can be considered an argument in the whole article, and they are fascinating in their fatuity and unconscious humour. (I’m guessing they’re the work of lead author Cook.)

For example, on Exxon’s comment in a 1977 memo “5-10 YR WINDOW TO GET NECESSARY INFORMATION,” the authors comment, “Time is running out!” Well, up to a point, John. In 1977 Exxon thought it would take 5-10 years to “get information” i.e. a better scientific grasp on climate sensitivity. It didn’t happen of course, but that’s not Exxon’s fault. Cook and his mates couldn’t boil an egg without shrieking “Time is running out!” They’re programmed that way.

Then on a 1988 recommendation to “Urge a balanced scientific approach” Cook scrawls: “Use ‘both sides’ approach to confuse people.”Balance,” to professors from Harvard and Bristol, is a confusing concept.

In the New York Times “advertorial” in 2000, alongside Exxon’s statement that: “it is not surprising that fundamental gaps in knowledge leave scientists unable to make reliable predictions about future changes,” Cook non-sequiturs: “Falsely argues that because we don’t know everything, we know nothing.”

And so on. The article commits every crime against logic which they attribute to deniers. Anyone reading it dispassionately will see that Exxon and their ad agency are paragons of rational thought, while the professors from Harvard, George Mason and Bristol are a bunch of hysterical loons, incapable of forming a logical argument. But we knew that already.


  1. You’re doing God’s work, Geoff.

    Well, the next best thing. (God’s job was to cause Naomi Oreskes to miscarry Stephan Lewandowsky’s Neanderthal sprog—but for Mysterious Reasons, He saw fit to allow her to detrude Cook from her cloaca in a viable condition.)

    Possible correction:

    “Cook non-sequiturs” should be “Cook lies,” unless you think he’s of sufficiently sub-average intelligence to avail himself of the Costanza Defense (“It’s not a lie if you believe it”).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anyway, it’s time for me to repeat myself. I strenuously apologize to anyone who knows all this already.


    Dear believer,

    Let’s dispense with this idiotic “FF” meme once and for all, FFS.

    The Oil Libel is getting boring. I know you think you’re smearing skeptics, but it ain’t working.

    Big Oil is Big Energy. Its interest in alarmist climate science is self-explanatory: public fear of global warming has created new markets for these corporations out of thin air while doing little or no damage to their traditional revenue streams.

    Demand for hydrocarbon-bond energy is essentially *inelastic,* whereas the demand for neo-Medieval, bird-decimating technology that barely works is an artificial construct.

    Wind farms; carbon credits; carbon capture; carbon sequestration—New Energy gets its very *raison d’être* (and best selling-point) from the dangerous-AGW hypothesis.

    I wonder if Oreskes mentioned what ExxonMobil did next. It gave Stanford  University a cool $100 million—much more than anyone ever gave to skeptical climate research—for its  Global Climate and Energy Project, which develops “ways to meet growing energy needs without worsening global warming,” and  another $600 million for  Biofuels Research . 

    Exxon was late to the party—the other energy giants have been capitalising on the climate-change movement from day one. We shouldn’t forget that the carbon-trading clause in Article 16 of the Kyoto Protocol was the creature of BP and Enron, the Smartest Guys in the Room. BP and Enron were also the major lobbyists telling governments around the world (including Australia’s) to ratify it.

    BP, or should I say Beyond Petroleum, stands squarely behind mainstream, alarmist climate research. It funds research into “ways of tackling the world’s climate problem” at Princeton University to the tune of $2 million a year for 15 years. It funds an energy research institute involving two other US universities, to a total of $500 million, that aims “to develop new sources of energy and reduce the impact of energy consumption on the environment.” It was a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, substantially funding the climate-related lobbying efforts of its members, including Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Nature Conservancy and the World Resources Institute.

    BP even put on the champagne and canapés at the book launch for Rajendra Pachauri’s erotic novel.

    Shell International has a huge Clean Development Mechanism [CDM] division. It also has $billions riding on the carbon credit exchange, formerly worth $130 billion per annum. You only need to imagine how much value it’s haemorrhaged from that portfolio since the CCX started tanking to know why Shell has never supported dangerous-AGW skepticism (except in Michael Mann’s mental cinema).

    Thanks to a courageous cybercriminal, we know the University of East Anglia CRU (formerly the Tyndall Centre) came to be seen by British fossil-fuel giants as a business partner. Big Energy was worth a lot of funding to these alarmist ‘scientists,’ their alarmist ‘science’ was worth a lot of revenue to Big Energy, and both parties knew it.

    The following emails come from *a single year,* the year 2000, which marked the start of a bidding war between Shell, Esso/Exxon-Mobil and BP for the ‘science’ of the CRU.

    The scientist Mick Kelly writes to his colleagues Mike Hulme and Tim O’Riordan (Climategate file 0962818260.txt):

    > I’m talking to Shell International’s climate change team, but this approach will do equally for the new [Foundation], as it’s only one step or so off Shell’s equivalent of a board level. I do know a little about the Foundation and what kind of projects they are looking for. It could be relevant for the new building, incidentally, though opinions are mixed as to whether it’s within the remit.

    Mike Hulme then discusses with O’Riordan the potential benefits for the Tyndall Centre:

    > Tim,I am meeting with Mick at 09:15 next Tuesday to talk about his links with Shell—and Tyndall dimension re. studentships, etc. Are you here and can you join us?

    The courtship goes well. Later in the year Kelly sends out a progress report:

    > Mike and TimNotes from the meeting with Shell International attached…. What ensued was necessarily a rather speculative discussion with the following points emerging.

    > 1. Shell International would give serious consideration to what I referred to in the meeting as a ‘strategic partnership’ with the T[yndall] C[entre], broadly equivalent to a ‘flagship alliance’ in the TC proposal.

    > A strategic partnership **would involve not only the provision of funding but some (limited but genuine) role in setting the research agenda** etc.

    > 2. Shell’s interest is not in basic science. Any work they support must have a clear and immediate relevance to ‘real-world’ activities. They are particularly interested in emissions trading and CDM.

    Next, “Esso”—which is UK English for “Exxon-Mobil”—also sees the investment opportunity. Mike Hulme writes (Climategate file 959187643.txt):

    > I would think Tyndall should have an open mind about this **and try to find the slants that would appeal to Esso.**

    The CRU climatologists grow so accustomed to the attentions of the fossil-fuel giants that by year’s end they’re taking it for granted that Beyond Petroleum will be another suitor. The scientist Simon Shackley writes:

    > Subject: BP funding…

    > dear TC colleagues, it looks like BP have their cheque books out!

    > How can TC **benefit from this largesse?** I wonder who has received this money within Cambridge University? Cheers, Simon


    This kind of collaboration isn’t just a British phenomenon. Here we can read (thanks to Freedom of Information laws) an interesting email from the University of Arizona climate scientist Dr Jonathan Overpeck.

    “Peck” writes to an Exxon-Mobil executive:

    > In addition to seeing and catching up w/ you, **I’m also quite intrigued by what Exxon-Mobil and the University of Arizona could do together on the climate change front.** As you’ve probably figured out, we have one of the top universities in this area, and lots of capability, both in understanding climate change at the global scale down to the regional scale, but also in terms of understanding how climate variability and change impacts society…

    Overpeck is not a skeptic. He’s a climate dysangelist.

    Why would these corporations barrack for skepticism? They haven’t lost a cent in the AGW panic and it’s unlikely they ever will.

    (Do you seriously think anything is going to “emerge” the next time someone throws a Kyoto Protocol reunion at a luxury resort? You know perfectly well the most binding document it’ll “produce” is a large alcohol tab.)

    You people with your superstitions about carbon dioxide created the Alternative And Imaginary Energies market from thin air. Congratulations—you just made the rich richer, and killed more bird life than DDT while you were at it. Well done.

    If the devil’s best trick was to convince the world he doesn’t exist, then Big Oil’s best trick was to convince you it’s on the devil’s side. Wake up, angels. It’s on your side.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. “the professors from Harvard, George Mason and Bristol are a bunch of hysterical loons, incapable of forming a logical argument. ”

    When is society going to overcome its dependence on facile fools?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Mark

    “Exxon accused of misleading investors on climate change”

    If Exxon ever did get in bed with Overpeck and the other climate dysangelists (I’m not sure how far they took their crush for each other), then Exxon must have got into the misleading-people-on-climate-change game, though not the way the BBC means.


  5. Big oil is learning that they should never confuse feeding an alligator with taming an alligator. Big oil fed the green extremists and climate kooks thinking they would show their good faith. As if there was ever good faith bring sought.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Brad, your letter (22 Oct, above) helps explain the supine response of oil companies to the provocations of climate alarm agitators. It would seem they, the Big Oilers, are doing a very convoluted, multi-partner pas-de-deux, with the Big Ecos, to the same suite of tunes on various dance floors, not always at the same time and place, but often, they might suppose, to their mutual advantage.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s worth pointing out that the arguments used on the article discussed are different from the ones used in the court cases discussed at WUWT and the New York Post (thanks Paul.)

    In the Guardian article linked by Paul above, the same authors bring up completely different arguments from the ones they used in the “America Misled” article, like the old Skeptical Science chestnut “global heating equivalent to four atom bombs per second.”

    I like that one. I’d love to see a survey question: “If we let off four atom bombs per second, how much do you think the world’s temperature would rise after half an hour?” I’d expect answers to range from a hundred to a billion degrees. Real answer: 0.0000025°C.

    “..then there’s the classic tactic of citing fake experts to cast doubt on the expert consensus on human-caused global warming.” Not to be confused with the classic tactic of citing a historian, two psychologists, an engineering student and a cartoonist and website designer to cast doubt on serious rational arguments demolishing warmest hysteria which are banned from the pages of the Guardian.


  8. On the point about Big Oil financing climate research, I once pointed out under a Monbiot article quoting some alarmist warnings about 10°C temperature rises that the group (from Yale, I think) conducting the research was financed by Exxon, Shell, BP, Total &co. Monbiot responded quick as a flash: “How do you know that’s influencing the research?” thus undermining his own argument in “Heat” and the argument of the authors of America Misled.

    They never learn, because they’re not allowed to be contradicted. This is the crime at the heart of the science.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. The document itself contains the usual obscure references to secondary and tertiary opinion sources. That is one needs to look in those references (sometimes books) to other find opinions or opinions about other opinion sources. Some time ago I believe Geoff did a good take-down of the work of Rory Dunlap.
    What is rarely found is undisputable evidence from the natural world that supports the mantra of the paper.

    It’s real; it’s us; experts agree; it’s bad; there’s hope

    Three of the authors – Lewandowsky, Oreskes & Supran – put their names to an Amicus Brief into a court case concerning what the oil industry “knew”. As a briefing paper it was somewhat more direct in its quotes.
    For instance the brief references a Revelle and Suess 1957 “in which they predicted large increases in atmospheric CO2 if fossil fuel production continued unabated
    Then introduction to that paper includes the statement

    Calculations by PLASS (1956) indicate that a 10% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide would increase the average temperature by 0.36C. But amplifying or feed-back processes may exist such that a slight change in the character of the back radiation might have a more pronounced effect.

    By my quick calculation a 0.36C from a 10% rise in CO2 would be an ECS of around 2.6C without feedbacks. The broad consensus is that the figure is nearer to 1.0C.

    The brief also quotes Edward Teller (the father of the H bomb)

    In 1959, physicist Edward Teller delivered the first warning of the dangers of global warming to the petroleum industry, at a symposium held at Columbia University to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the industry. Teller described the need to find energy sources other than fossil fuels to mitigate these dangers, stating, “a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and since a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions, I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.

    If ECS = 11, a 10% rise in CO2 levels would lead to the dreaded 1.5C of warming. Even the XR cranks would not claim this small rise in temperature would be sufficient to melt all of Antartica.
    (Covered in more detail here)

    This raises a couple of issues in my mind. First, if people’s first experiences of new ideas are, to them, obviously devoid of sense, then they will tend to less receptive to those ideas better expressed in the future. Second, is that whilst the climate alarmists are trying to block sceptical opinions, they have no filters with regard to the crankiest versions of what they believe in, nor to standards to prevent ideologues perverting the scientific evidence for political gain.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Enron not only promoted the Kyoto agreement but also carbon credit trading and many other financial products geared to exploit the high volatility a renewable & gas-heavy energy system would likely engender (among which, in the richest of ironies, credit derivatives!). And yes now oil majors have also pivoted heavily toward gas almost entirely due to climate activism. Carbon cost is simply passed to the consumer either as a ‘clean spark spread’ or environmental surcharge. And due to CCGT efficiency a higher carbon price supports gas (vs coal) for baseload supply, and also high volatility which is the profit driver of production, transport & storage assets. Seems like climate activists are pushing on an open door.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Having recently “retired” (aka “escaped”) from my federal civil service job, I have been in search of an equally facile source of income. The hopes that Cook, Supran, Lewandowsky, Oreskes and Maibach raised in me have been dashed, however. I’ve been sitting outside of the front door of the neighborhood Exxon station for more than a month, holding a sign reading “Will Deny Climate for Money,” and haven’t gotten a single red cent as a result.


    Liked by 2 people

  12. This is a grand old thread which I thought was worth bringing back into New Comments, even if briefly.

    The thing is, the poor may just now be fighting back – against Big Green, using Big Oil to do its real job.

    One doesn’t have good news like that every day.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.